March 29, 2013

One Touch Can Opener: Old Gold?

New Name: Tornado Can Opener
Current Marketer: Harvest
Original Hit Year: 2006 (No. 13 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: Cricket
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This DRTV hit was originally marketed as the One Touch Can Opener (a much better name). I think it's probably too soon to bring it back, especially since the original product is still available at major retailers (e.g. Target).

The reason it usually takes a 'Phoenix' a decade to rise again is that the marketplace needs time to forget about the item so that it can seem unique and exciting once again.

Citrus Express: Old Gold?

Current/Original Marketer: Emson
Original Hit Year: 1998 (No. 1 on the JW Annual)
Prediction: On the fence

What I like about this product is that there is nothing else that does what it claims to do.

What I don't like about this product is that it really only has two uses. Narrow pitches can be good, but this one may be too narrow.

As for what made it such a big hit last time, all I can do is theorize ... and remind you that it was the 'Golden Age of DR.' A lot of things worked well back then that wouldn't work at all today. (I'm sure media being about one-fifth the price had something to do with it.)

Weekly Round-Up

Brooklyn, Kansas City and now London

  1. London Railroad Lantern. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "A beautiful recreation of the original conductor's lantern." Comments: It seems I was wrong about which city they'd try next. I failed to take into account other countries! [ss]
  3. Eyeglass Watcher. Pitch: "The easy way to keep a watchful eye on your glasses." Comments: I have the same thoughts as the last time this concept was tried (see iSpex, which is #4 in this round-up). [ss]
  5. Flabs 2 Abs. Pitch: "Guaranteed to produce better weight-loss results than [every big name diet plan]." Comments: Not bad for amateurs, but those comparison claims are going to get them in trouble. [ss]
  7. PainEZium. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "Just spray it on and the neck, back and arthritis pain is gone." Comments: I can't think of the last pain-relief product that was successful on DRTV (unless we count the one that caused the headache pain it cured). Besides being the epitome of a crowded category, it is jealousy protected and heavily policed. [ss]
  9. Saf-T-Bait. Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill. Pitch: "Keeps your bait safe while you cast." Comments: It appears Mr. Gill will pitch anything. The late, great Billy Mays went through this phase as well, going so far as to pitch health insurance. As for my thoughts on the item, see below. [ss]
  11. S20 Laundry. Starring: Akos Jankura. Pitch: "No measuring, no mixing, no heavy containers." Comments: All attempts at competing in this category are likely to fail for reasons I have already explained several times before (see here, for instance). [ss]
  13. Skippy Fish. Pitch: "Stop fishing and start catching." Comments: Fishing continues to be on my list of bad DR categories. It has also become like the golf category with as many fish-catching gadgets being tested these days as swing-improvement gadgets. [ss]

March 26, 2013

Rocket Tops: Old Gold?

Current/Original Marketer: IdeaVillage
Original Hit Year: 1999
Prediction: Likely to succeed

As I have mentioned before, I consider myself unqualified to predict whether a kids' item will be successful on DRTV. I don't have enough experience in the category, and the criteria are clearly different than for other DRTV items. That said, two things make me comfortable enough to take a shot and predict success for this campaign.

First, this was one of IdeaVillage's first hit items, selling well when the company was still in its infancy and not nearly the powerhouse it is today. Second, although I'm no expert, I am aware of several criteria specific to toys -- and this product seems to meet those criteria. Specifically, it has a lot of "wow factor" and it also has great "play value."

Finishing Touch 360

Description: A hair remover
Main Pitch: "Painlessly removes unwanted hair in seconds with no nicks, no cuts and no irritation"
Main Offer: $14.99 for three
Bonus: Lighted 5X mirror (just pay S&H)
Starring: Jennifer Nicole Lee
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I just don't see women giving up their Venus for this. There is no reason to believe it's better than today's razors. In fact, there are reasons to believe it could be worse. For instance, it looks less maneuverable and trickier to use in narrow areas.

About the only thing the product has going for it is the value, but that's lost in a math problem. You get "a full year of hair removal," says Ms. Lee. But to get there, you need to comprehend that each unit has four blades (three hidden while one is in use), each blade lasts for one month and you get three units with your order.
(One month x 4 x 3 = 12 months/1 year.)

Oh, and those units come in three different colors, none of which is remotely masculine by the way -- as this image from the Website demonstrates:

March 22, 2013

SciMark Report from March Response

The print edition of the SciMark Report for March is now available on the Response Website.

In the column, I review IdeaVillage's Nano Hooks [ss] Telebrands' Kansas City Railroad Lantern [ss] and Shinobi with Marc Gill [ss].

March 18, 2013

Dueling Plush Lights

Flashlight Friends

Description: A plush toy and flashlight
Main Pitch: "Kids love flashlights, and kids love soft animals: Now they're together in one fun toy"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: None
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Infomercials Inc.
Prediction: On the fence

Tummy Lites

Description: A plush toy and lantern
Main Pitch: "The cuddly pet that's a lantern, too"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: None
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: On the fence

Although my predictions are the same, I give IdeaVillage the edge in this contest. They used 'Plush Master' Doug Fowkes for their commercial and are also several months ahead, having heavily promoted their product at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago earlier this month.

That said, no one should ever underestimate Telebrands, especially in a head-to-head competition. Whether it's one competitor (pans) or two (hoses), Telebrands always seem to come out on top at retail.

In any case, the plush craze in our industry has clearly gotten out of hand -- and that was well underway before Telebrands joined the fray. Ontel's Pillow Pets was followed IdeaVillage's Dreamy Time Turtle which flopped but was successfully followed by Ontel's Dream Lites which was followed by IdeaVillage's Bright Light Pillow which has been followed by Ontel's Glow Pets which has now been followed by the IdeaVillage/Telebrands items above.

That short list doesn't even including tangential plush items from companies outside of the family, and non-plush follower items such as Telebrands' Starry Nite Clock, which I review in the upcoming April issue of Response. (I have come up with a new name for this phenomenon, but you'll have to wait for the magazine to find out what it is.)

So, can the marketplace possibly sustain so many, multi-SKU plush items at once? I'm not sure. But between this and the direct competition that is now on the rise, DR is becoming the Wild West once again.

Bell + Howell iDriver

Description: A versatile multi-screwdriver
Main Pitch: "It's a 9-bit screwdriver, it's a powerful LED flashlight, it's extendable and it's even magnetic!"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Emson
Prediction: N/A

The Bell + Howell iScope (one of my True Top Spenders of 2012) has been on the market for less than a year and already Emson is trying to one-up and/or extend it. I guess it's always a good strategy to feed off your own success before someone else does.

As for the item, I'm not making a prediction because I suspect this project will follow the same pattern as its predecessor and several other Bell + Howell items of last year. That is, it will likely roll out if there is any potential for retail.

Of course, that doesn't mean the multi-screwdriver is suddenly right for DRTV (especially not a Swiss Army version like this). Traditional DRTV marketers beware.

Steel New

Description: A scratch-removal kit for stainless steel
Main Pitch: "Brings your appliances back to like new"
Main Offer: $10 for one bottle
Bonus: 2nd bottle (just pay S&H)
Marketer: For Life Products
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: N/A

This is basically the Rejuvenate concept applied to appliances. Actually, it appears there's already a stainless steel scratch remover under the Rejuvenate brand. Curious that they tested it without the brand.

In any case, I did not make a prediction here because it's clear from the appearance of Rejuvenate on my True Top Spenders of 2012 that For Life is employing a modern retail strategy that makes it difficult to predict what will roll out.

Finger Charger

Description: A portable device charger
Main Pitch: "The new compact, backup battery that has you instantly back in business"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one in black, pink, chrome or leopard
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I think this project will fail for an unusual reason: I don't think the product can be made for the price advertised. I've looked into it myself because I considered pursuing a similar item.

Otherwise, I like it. Most phone chargers on the market are expensive and "techy," which is to say they are designed for men. If this charger could be made for $20, it would definitely do well. I especially like its female-friendly size and design. It's not much larger than a lipstick and can easily slip into a purse like one. In fact, I would have called it the "Lipstick Charger" (if the name is available). "Finger" is a bit creepy.

Anyway, it turns out these products are expensive for a reason. It may be possible to put out a really inferior product that meets DRTV margin requirements, but such a product won't stay on the market for long.

March 15, 2013


Description: Seed pods
Main Pitch: "Peel, plant, water and watch your seeds grow"
Main Offer: $29.99 for a 12-pod salad garden
Bonus: 6-pod herb garden
Marketer: MiracleGro
Prediction: Hit!

This is an innovative idea under a credible brand name. The price is $10 too high for impulse buying, but based on the offer configuration it should be easy to fix that once someone with a little more DRTV experience gets involved.

Wow, we're still in the first quarter, and I've already predicted a hit! Let's hope my prognostication skills in this area are better than last year.

Vidalia Chop Master

Description: A food chopper
Main Pitch: "Lets you chop a big bunch all at once"
Main Offer: 2 pay of $14.95 for one
Bonus: Dicing blade (just pay P&H), marinating attachment (free)
Marketer: National Express
Prediction: On the fence

Speaking of brand extensions from yesteryear, Vidalia is back! It will be interesting to see if it can revive under a modern brand-to-retail strategy.

I like the item, but I don't like the price point. By the looks of it, there's not much they can do about that, either.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Rollie. Pitch: "The fast, easy, pan-free way to make perfect eggs every time." Comments: When I watched this spot, all I could think of were one-liners. For example: "Gee, mom must really love us! She made egg turds for breakfast!" Or: Maybe they should have called this EggDini and had Gilbert Godfried do the VO: "It's an omelet on a stick!" Your turn. [ss]
  3. Milk Magic. Pitch: "The quick and easy to use beverage frother." Comments: Too narrow for DRTV. Besides, you can get an electric solution for the same price at Target. [ss]
  5. Slick X3. Pitch: "Now you can seal and make any vehicle exterior and interior liquid and dirt repellent" Comments: Cool demos, but this concept has failed repeatedly and for windows there's always Rain-X. Also, this spot uses a variant of my least favorite phrase in DR: "NASA-developed." [ss]
  7. Ultimate Knee Pillow. Marketer: Simon Wright. Pitch: "Say goodbye to those achey knees and morning backache." Comments: The Contour Knee Pillow was a bona-fide success years ago. More recently, Sobakawa put out a knee pillow, but it's unclear what happened to it. Guess we'll have to wait and see if this idea is 'Old Gold.' [ss]
  9. Zyppah Rx. Starring: Bob Eubanks. Producer: Greenberg Direct. Pitch: "The safe and efffective treatment for snoring." Comments: Good spot, but this one is rather late to market after Pure Sleep and zQuiet. [ss]

March 14, 2013

My 2012 Track Record

It's time for me to do a little self-accounting and share my track record for 2012. In the calendar year, I made 133 firm predictions. That is, I said the project would be a bomb, a hit, likely to succeed or unlikely to succeed.

For these purposes, I did not include any project I was 'on the fence' about, and I did not include projects in my Weekly Round-Up feature (unless I made a firm call). Here are the results:

Bombs (14). Accuracy rate: 100%.

Fourteen of the 14 projects I predicted would be bombs failed to make it onto the True Top Spenders list for the year.

Hits (1). Accuracy rate: 0%.

In the entire year, I liked only one project enough to declare it a future hit, the HurryCane. However, it does not appear on my annual list. Sources tell me the campaign has spent a lot of money on shorter-format media, but I only include 120s in my analysis.

Unlikely to Succeed (103). Accuracy rate: 92%.

This was my favorite prediction by far. The statistic is fairly impressive until you realize: a) It's easy to predict failure when most projects fail, and b) the eight I got wrong include some of the biggest hits of the year.

My two biggest embarrassments are Olde Brooklyn Lantern and Wax Vac.

Other ones I got wrong: Flex-Able Hose, Bell + Howell iScope, Bell + Howell Solar Charger, Insta Bulb, Diamond X4 and Mr. Lid.

Likely to Succeed (15). Accuracy rate: 27%.

Ouch. Apparently picking winners is my worst skill. Of course, it is also the hardest thing to do in this business. Actually, if I had invested in every project I liked (16 total) my success rate would be exactly one in four, which is a great track record in this business! (Nice try, right?)

The four projects I liked that made it onto the True Top Spenders list were Trendy Top, Perfect Tortilla, X-Hose and Tag Away.

And there you have it: My track record for last year. Let's see if I can do better in 2013.

March 08, 2013

Chatty Patty

Description: An animatronic parrot
Main Pitch: "Instantly records your voice when you start talking ... then repeats what you say"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials
Prediction: On the fence

This is another one of those bizarre, random items for which Telebrands is famous. (Although, believe it or not, this isn't the first time they've tried an animatronic bird.) They must have sales information ... or be nostalgic for the Boogie Bass, the only animatronic item that ever worked on DRTV (to my knowledge).

Although the product is a random novelty with long odds for DRTV, I like it. I also like the commercial. You never know.

Bacon Wave: Old Gold?

Current/Original Marketer: Emson
Original Hit Year: 1995 (No. 8 on the JW Annual)
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

As I've mentioned before, I think microwave cooking is dead as a DRTV category. This makes a lot more sense as a bonus item.

Incidentally, I am only calling this old "gold" because I have it on good authority that it was a hit. But I don't what year or what rank it acheived on the Jordan Whitney. If you know, use the comments section or shoot me an email.

Weekly Round-Up

Allstar's Little Birdie

  1. Dee Weeder. Starring: Melinda Myers. Pitch: "The one garden tool that does it all." Comments: If Victorinox made a gardening tool, it would probably look something like this. [ss]
  3. Hair Secret by Finishing Touch. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: "The amazing new scalp concealer that makes your hair appear thicker and fuller." Comments: Apparently a 'fast fail,' since the site is already down. I don't get the brand strategy. Doesn't Finishing Touch stand for hair removal? [ss]
  5. Little Birdie. Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Blue Moon. Pitch: "The ingenious plant monitor that sings to you when your plant needs water." Comments: I am too close to this one to comment. [ss]
  7. Lord's Prayer Pendant. Pitch: "A memorable piece of jewelry and a unique spiritual accessory." Comments: A much less exciting version of Prayer Cross. [ss]
  9. MaxiLift. Pitch: "The youth formula that can take years from your looks right before your eyes." Comments: Attempt No. 483. [ss]
  11. Perfect Chop. Pitch: "The last cutting board you'll ever need, guaranteed." Comments: Amateur hour. [ss]
  13. Quick Lawn. Pitch: "Grow the world's first and only four-season lawn." Comments: This product first hit the airwaves when it was third to market. Now that it's alone on TV, and it has been a while, it has a better shot at success. [ss]
  15. Quit It!. Pitch: "The all-natural way to correct and train any pet's bad behavior, guaranteed." Comments: I don't see people buying an 'analog' version of Bark Off/Sonic Pet Trainer -- especially one that has the added disincentive of needing replenishment. [ss]
  17. Sponge Buddies. Starring: The Olate Dogs. Pitch: "It's a dog spa in a sponge." Comments: Co-written by yours truly. [ss]

March 04, 2013

Power Shower

Description: A shower head
Main Pitch: "Increase water pressure, reduce costs and go green all at the same time"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one
Bonus: Free upgrade to deluxe with 5 adjustable settings
Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill
Marketer: Harvest
Producer: Bluewater
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

You can tell Marc and the Bluewater team had a lot of fun making this commercial. It features the sort of over-the-top "magic demo" that helped turn the late, great Billy Mays into a legend and put the Mighty products on the map. But the comparisons end there.

First, a proper magic demo involves the product being pitched. It's usually a torture test of some kind. Mighty Putty was used to pull a tractor trailer. Mighty Mendit was used to repair a tear in a parachute, and then a skydiver took the plunge. In this commercial's magic demo, a water jet pack is used to represent the product. The problem: It's all 'wow' and no proof of performance.

A related issue is how the product is supposed to work. The commercial spends a lot of time explaining it -- with technical language, animation, digital readouts and the aforementioned jet-pack demo -- but none of that gives the viewer a strong reason to believe the product actually works better than other showerheads. In the end, it's just a confusing jumble of razzle dazzle. Worse, the product looks less than spectacular when it is shown in action. Although testimonials tell us how great it is, I didn't see anything worth getting excited about.

Which brings me to my biggest concern: the category. I would never green-light a showerhead for DRTV (especially one that's $10 too expensive), no matter how great it performed on camera. The category is way too crowded with every option under the sun available at the local big box. In this case, even the pitch isn't new. Practically every showerhead on the shelf claims to increase water pressure (although while reducing costs is an interesting new paradox). Unless the play is to try to establish an in-line base business at retail, this project should have been killed in the development phase.

March 03, 2013

The True Top Spenders of 2012

The peer review period is over, so without further ado: Here are the True Top Spenders for 2012 ... and the winners!

And now -- just in time for Housewares -- here is your True Top Marketer and True Top Producer ...

True Top Marketer: Telebrands Corporation!

Telebrands takes the top spot with ELEVEN rollouts on the list, a new record. They picked a great time to have one of their best years ever, too, as they are now celebrating 30 years in the business.

Meanwhile, Allstar dropped to second place with seven roll-outs, down from 10 at mid-year. But this is largely an artifact of some strong campaigns from the previous year (Sift & Toss, Perfect Meatloaf, Forever Lazy) coming to their natural end. After that, it's IdeaVillage with five full rollouts for the year and Emson with four, three of them under the Bell + Howell brand.

True Top Producer: Concepts TV!

Concepts remains atop the list with SEVEN roll-outs for the year. Just about the time one of the seven from mid-year came to its natural end (Sift & Toss), they hit with an even bigger winner (Spark Innovator's Cafe Cup). Congratulations to them! If the company doesn't have 30 years in business, it's close. And so 2012 was the year that proves DRTV companies improve with age, like a fine wine.

Meanwhile, Blue Moon Studios takes second place and appears to be on the rise, already gunning for the top spot in 2013 with a solid hit (Forever Comfy). After that, in third, it's a tie between Bluewater (FabriClear, Grout Bully, Thundershirt, Jack Rack) and Paddock Productions ($50 Gold Buffalo Coin, Magic Mesh, EZ Eyes, Olde Brooklyn Lantern).

Now, some housekeeping. Astute readers will notice the list has changed slightly from before. This is because of a robust peer review process (thank you, everyone) that revealed a flaw in the system: the ranking. I was able to look at the actual DR spending for some campaigns and compare it to what the third-party reporting services estimate. In some cases, the estimates were dead on. In other cases, the estimates were double or triple. I always figured the estimates were based on rate card and would be consistently high. But I was wrong. It seems the media mix of a campaign matters because DR players get significantly discounted rates on some networks and close to normal rates on others.

So does that undermine my list? No. In fact, my next realization was that ranking doesn't matter. The purpose of this list has always been to separate the truth from the BS. My intention is simply to know (and share) whether a marketer actually spent rollout dollars on a campaign (the best way I have of gauging a winner from the outside) or if the ever-present hype is unsupported. By establishing an arbitrary cutoff of an average of $50,000 per week, which in most cases will be at inflated estimations, I believe I am capturing every campaign that spent enough to qualify as a real rollout. Whether that campaign spent a billion or a few million is not important for my purposes, and so relative rank is not important. I pick my winners based on the number of rollouts alone, not the rank of the rollouts.

And so, going forward, I have eliminated the rank column and will simply present my readers with an alphabetized list. In fact, to make the end result even more informative, when you click on the list atop this post you will get that list alphabetized three ways: by campaign, by marketer and by producer. That way, you can quickly assess who's hot -- and who's not.

Otherwise, my methodology remains unchanged. I only count 120s. I use calendar date ranges (first six months, full calendar year). And I eliminate campaigns that are beyond the focus of this blog (branding, long-form support, supplements, topicals, etc.) But I am always open for suggestions on how to improve this list. If you have a good one, feel free to shoot me an email or post your critique in the comments section of this post.

Coming soon ... I face the music and reveal my 2012 track record!